2011 was quite the crazy year. Panda steamrolled many sites, Google+ was introduced, keyword data started disappearing, and so much more! It was a very memorable year and many incredible things happened not just in the world of search, but in the real world as well. This amazing video from Google pretty much sums up 2011 in a nutshell:
Being that we’re nearing the end of 2011, we thought it would be appropriate to curate a list of top search related content of 2011. And if you have anything that you would like to add to this list, please feel free to do so in the comments! Enjoy this and Happy Holidays from Evergreen Search!
If your organic search traffic resembles something like the image below, there’s a good chance your site was hit by Panda (if you didn’t already know).
The Panda (or farmer) update was rolled out in early 2011 and was designed to purge low quality “content farms” from the search engines. It’s great that Google is continually focused on having quality search results, but unfortunately the Panda update has also affected quality sites. But fear not! Google is continually refining Panda and hopefully it’ll be closer to perfection sooner rather than later
Action items to protect your site from the Panda hammer:
- Produce unique content that ADDS VALUE for your readers
- Get rid of content that has little or no value
- Increase trust signals on your site (would you feel comfortable providing your credit card information to your own site?)
- Provide a great user experience and have a solid site structure
- Don’t overdo ads (Google is even thinking about penalizing sites that are ad heavy)
Google even wrote up a fantastic blog post on creating high quality websites right here so make sure to check that out if you’re still affected by Panda.
Here’s a video from Matt Cutts on Panda:
Google+ Enters the Social Media Battlefield
Google+ is Google’s social media baby. Its full potential remains to be seen but you can bet that there’s a good chance that it’ll be around for a while. A lot of what we do revolves around Google: e-mail, search, analytics, news readers, and more. Just imagine what Google+ can do with all of those services!
Action Item: If you’re new to Google+, make sure to check out this handy beginner’s guide to Google+.
Here’s a funny video on what Google+ is and why you should be paying attention to it:
And for some context, here’s what Google thinks about social signals:
Content recommended by friends and acquaintances is often more relevant than content from strangers. For example, a movie review from an expert is useful, but a movie review from a friend who shares your tastes can be even better. Because of this, +1′s from friends and contacts can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query. This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, and we’re constantly tweaking and improving our algorithm to improve overall search quality. For +1′s, as with any new ranking signal, we are starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality.
Bottom line: Social is here to stay. Google+ is here to stay (probably). So go get your feet wet!
Google Starts Censoring Keyword Data
In October, Google started censoring keyword data from users that are logged into Google. This change means that a portion of the valuable, actionable data that search marketers rely on has gone poof. Just like that. Google cites that these changes were made due to user privacy concerns. However, people that advertise on Google Adwords still get their query data. Furthermore, what Google downplayed as a “minor” change that would affect less than 10% of searches is in fact affected searches in the double digits. Search Engine Land reports that they have lost over 12% of their organic search data. These changes can be very significant to data driven websites – and let’s face it, most websites these days ARE data driven. So what gives, Google?
Here’s a great post by Aaron Wall of SEO Book on how Google Whores Out Users Due to False Privacy Claims. I’m with you Aaron.
Google’s Freshness Update Impacts 35% of Searches
In late 2011, Google added its Freshness Update to its search algorithm, a change designed to deliver more fresh results to the search engine results page. Google breaks down what kind of searches this affects:
- Recent events or hot topics. For recent events or hot topics that begin trending on the web, you want to find the latest information immediately. Now when you search for current events like [occupy oakland protest], or for the latest news about the [nba lockout], you’ll see more high-quality pages that might only be minutes old.
- Regularly recurring events. Some events take place on a regularly recurring basis, such as annual conferences like [ICALP] or an event like the [presidential election]. Without specifying with your keywords, it’s implied that you expect to see the most recent event, and not one from 50 years ago. There are also things that recur more frequently, so now when you’re searching for the latest [NFL scores], [dancing with the stars] results or [exxon earnings], you’ll see the latest information.
- Frequent updates. There are also searches for information that changes often, but isn’t really a hot topic or a recurring event. For example, if you’re researching the [best slr cameras], or you’re in the market for a new car and want [subaru impreza reviews], you probably want the most up to date information.
Action Item: Keep delivering fresh, valuable content to your readers. If you don’t know what to write about, try checking out Yahoo Answers, Quora, LinkedIn answers, or even surveying your user base to see what they are interested in. You’re guaranteed to find some helpful tidbits on those sites.
To read more into the details of this change, Search Engine Watch has a great post on Google Freshness and Temporal Data.
Yahoo Site Explorer Goes Down
When I first started doing SEO, Yahoo Site Explorer was my go to tool for checking backlinks. With the Bing and Yahoo merger complete, Yahoo shut down Yahoo Site Explorer. However, all is not lost! There are a ton of great backlink tools available. Here are a few (in no particular order):
Give them all a shot – they all have a free trial!
Action Item: Try out the backlink research tools listed above. You’ll find them to be very useful. Promise
Google Analytics got cooler this year – a lot cooler. Here’s a vid on the new features:
Here are some of my personal favorites:
Now you’re able to see what marketing channels your customer touched before converting. No longer is each conversion attributed to last click – you can now see how all your marketing efforts play into the final decision.
Webmaster Tools integration
Google Analytics now has a direct link to Webmaster Tools inside Analytics. You no longer need to open up Google Webmaster Tools separately – very convenient for SEOs
How would you like to see what users on doing on your site right this second?
Action Item: Go get your feet wet in the new Analytics. Google is set to make the new version default in 2012 so you might as well start now!
For more details, check out Mashable’s post on Google Analytics New Features.
Rich snippets are markups in search results that can pull your eyes towards them and perhaps influence click-through rate. Rich snippet results really set themselves apart from regular search results – I’ll let the pictures below do the explaining. To get rich snippets, you have to markup the code on your site.
Example of rich snippet result:
Resources on rich snippets:
Action Item: Work with your developers to help implement rich snippets.
SEO Is The Most Important Marketing Channel
And last, but certainly not least: according to MerchantCircle/Reply.com, search engine optimization is the number one marketing channel. Cheers!
That’s all I have! Your turn!
What are some other newsworthy SEO items you’d add to this post?